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Exclusive Interview: the ONETTI BROTHERS TALK about their new giallo film “ABRAKADABRA”

Thursday, June 11, 2020 | Interviews


After their films Sonno Profondo, Francesca and their venture into modern slasher with What the Waters Left Behind, this directing duo, the Onetti Brothers, return with Abrakadabra. This homage to the classic giallo genre that tells the story of Lorenzo (German Baudino), a magician traumatized by the accidental death of his father years ago during a magic trick gone wrong. When he comes back to town to perform his new show, a series of murders begin and it soon becomes clear that these gruesome events are connected to his father’s supposed “accident”.

Here they discuss classic giallo, magicians and this newest opus, which is available on Amazon Prime and debuts on Blu Ray later this month, courtesy of Cauldron Films.

What were the main influences for Abrakadabra? I’m talking about both movies and literature.

Luciano Onetti: The main and almost unique influence of Abrakadabra is the giallo genre. Not so much of novels or movies, but of all things belonging to that particular genre.

Nico Onetti: That’s right, and our main influences were Sergio Martino’s All the Colours of the Dark and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh.

LO: Our main goal was to approach a subject that had not been used before in giallo films, such as magic and illusionism. The original story was written by Carlos Goitia and supervised by Nicolas and myself as directors. The main challenge was to create a story that could fit the low budget we had, and deal with the subject of mind and personality.

But there’s also some influence from modern films…

NO: Yes, especially two films that feature magic: Nolan’s The Prestige and Neil Burger’s The Illusionist.

LO: Also, seeing the finished film I noticed some influences, although not previously foreseen, from movies like The Three Faces of Eve, Fight Club, and films that deal with dissociative identity disorder.

Besides Daniel de la Vega’s Necrofobia, there are not many “real” giallos in Latin American horror cinema. Why did you decide to shoot your films as a real 70’s gialli as opposed to modernizing the genre?

NO: I think it was nostalgia. Giallo films disappeared in the 80’s, when we were kids. So we decided to shoot the film it in the same way they did in the 70’s and 80’s. And it was also a nice challenge because we had to recreate a specific era.

LO: Personally, what I always liked about giallo is the era in which it developed. That is, the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I mostly like films that were made during that period. For instance, if I could get a hold of a 16mm or 35mm camera, I’d love to shoot in that format. When we started with Sonno Profondo and Francesca, I decided to use that “retro” style because it practically didn’t exist. It was fun to do it and to take advantage of locations and vintage objects that we also had at hand. To keep the vibe going, we even designed the end credits to have that specific look. Also, it would have been difficult for me to imagine a magician using a cell phone or adapting many other things to current technologies. It would have lost that kind of magic generated by movies like Opera or Tenebre. I feel like the giallo as a genre does not adjust to the passage of time, plus I’m not fond of “neo gialli”. Modern gialli are more experimental kind of films, bypassing the police procedure and detective aspects, and focusing mostly on the aesthetic side. I think I must have something against modern stuff, like CGI for example.

Which are your five favorite gialli?

NO: My favorite is Tenebre. I can’t explain 100% why. I’ve been attracted to that film since I was a child and felt intrigued by it the first time I even looked at the poster art. I love the music, the FX, the story, the locations, the acting and, of course, the long sequence shot of the murder in the house with that beautiful Goblin theme.

LO: I can quickly say that as soon as I saw my first giallo, I immediately fell in love with the genre. I love Deep Red, Tenebre, The Black Belly of the Tarantula, Torso and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage. Beyond the similarity between them, I can say that what I most like about these films is the atmosphere, the music and the stories they tell. They’re unique. That unique Italian style is very different from American cinema of that era.

You’ve worked with German Baudino before. He’s Argentina’s Robert Englund! Did you write the character with him in mind?

NO: Yes, we did.

LO: As you say, he’s our Robert Englund!

NO: We worked together in What the Waters Left Behind, where he played one of the villains. In Abrakadabra his role was totally different. He demonstrated that he’s one of the most versatile actors in our country.

LO: He’s a great actor, very passionate and committed to what he does. He loves to work like few actors I’ve ever met and really gets under his characters’ skin. In this particular case, he learned to do magic tricks. In fact, the scene where he performs the “box and the sword trick” was shot several times without cutting because he asked to do it for real, without anyone’s help. That says a lot about an actor. Let’s hope that German can be called by filmmakers from all over the world because besides being enormously talented. He is a great guy and has a unique look in front of the camera.

Did you do much research about magicians and tricks?

NO: Yes, we researched a lot. And we got one real magician to come to the shooting to help us and coach the actors. We also used real magic tricks for the murders. For example, the guillotine and the box with the spades are real acts. And in the theatre scene, there’s a real time trick for the people who watch the film in their homes.

I completely fell for that one!

NO: Everyone does!

You’ve ventured into modern horror with What The Waters Left Behind… what can we expect next from you guys? New ventures into the giallo genre or a new departure like that one?

NO: No more gialli for now. After Abrakadabra we directed A Night Of Horror: Nightmare Radio, an international modern horror anthology in English. We were chosen as the Creative Directors of the film and we directed the wrap-around-story for it.

Luciano, you have written scores for other filmmakers, like Daniel de la Vega’s White Coffin and Punto Muerto. What’s the difference between writing the score for your own films and doing it for someone else?

LO: The passion to make music is the same. But the main difference might be the freedom to do whatever you want as opposed to having to please someone else. It’s not that I don’t like writing scores for other films, but in those cases I have to adapt to what the directors want. Stick to their vision. For example, when I worked with Daniel in Punto Muerto, I loved the proposal because it was a black and white film set in the 50’s. So the challenge was to emulate scores from that era, film noir style stuff, very different from what I wrote for Abrakadabra. I developed a very special relationship with Daniel, and now I’m working on the music for On the Third Day, his latest film. While it’s set in modern times, the score is closer to 80’s stuff like John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream. I love working for other people because it challenges and encourages me as a musician.

Mariam RM